Mr. Ken Atkinson (St. Catharines):
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to join in this debate. As a member of the special committee that studied CSIS with my other friends who are in the House, I did agree and sign the report that said that CSE should have its own legislated mandate and that SIRC should be mandated to oversee CSE.
My friends from Scarborough-Rouge River and Brant have gone into detail on the Communications Security Establishment and what we know. Certainly the minister has primary responsibility. That is our system as it exists today. In that regard the CSE is apparently under the Department of National Defence. The Minister of National Defence would have authority over that particular agency and a reporting function to Parliament in that regard.
I would like to say there is no indication that anybody's civil liberties have been offended by CSE. Therefore, why are we bringing this particular matter forward? Why was this motion brought forward? We saw, as was indicated in the early 1980s, that the RCMP security establishment, sworn to uphold the law, did run afoul of the law in regard to national security matters.
As a result it was decided that the security service would be made a civilian agency. It would be given its own legislative mandate. Certain checks would be put in place in order to defend the civil liberties of Canadians. Those were outlined very well by the parliamentary secretary and included SIRC, the Security Intelligence Review Committee, as well as the inspector general.
We found in our review of CSIS that these organizations have functioned well and have protected the civil liberties of Canadians. We looked at other areas of the security establishment in this country. We understand there is security apparatus within the Department of External Affairs, within the transport department and with CSE, to name a few.
May 20, 1992
Private Members' Business
To make sure that the civil liberties of Canadians were protected and that we did not have any incidents where those civil liberties were offended and as a result there would a great uproar in Parliament, it was decided by the committee that we would recommend that CSE be given its own legislative mandate and, since SIRC had worked so well in overseeing CSIS, that SIRC be mandated to oversee CSE as well.
CSIS in the act, as was pointed out by the parliamentary secretary, has its own legislative mandate in regard to threats to the security of Canada. Surely the CSE could be given a similar legislative mandate as a standard by which it can be judged in its picking up of the various electromagnetic signals and which it would take into consideration.
It is my belief that there are memorandums of understanding between CSIS and CSE, so there is some exchange of information. Obviously the memorandum itself is secret and should remain so, but the mere fact of a memorandum of understanding indicates that there is an agreement as to what information will be turned over to CSIS in certain circumstances.
It is not out of the question for people who have the responsibility, as we do here in Parliament, to want to know what that information is. We should be able to get at that particular information. We should know in general terms what the budget of the organization is so that we can fulfil our oversight function, and also so that we can ensure that the civil liberties of Canadians are protected.
Our first choice would have been a model similar to the United States. When we were doing our study on CSIS we found that in the United States all the security intelligence agencies are overseen by two congressional committees, one of the Senate and one of the House of Representatives. They have access to all the information in regard to all the security establishments in the United States, including their NSA.
We in Canada did not go that route in overseeing our security intelligence service. We decided we would do it through the Security Intelligence Review Committee, made up of Privy Council members who were mandated to actually take the place of Parliament because it is a secret organization. Obviously it is important to the security of our country. They were to take the place of Parliament, and that is why the Privy Councillors were put in this particular position.
We on the committee accept that concept. We found that it was working well. As was mentioned, the Security Intelligence Review Committee does look at what CSIS does. It delves into various matters to ensure that the civil liberties of Canadians are protected, and we can see that in its annual report. Obviously that has an effect on CSIS and it makes sure that the civil liberties of Canadians are taken care of and are not abused.
Our thinking on the committee was that we should put all the security intelligence apparatus under some form of oversight, that includes the other ones I mentioned and would be found in the report.
We feel there was a reaction in the early 1980s to what had gone on in the RCMP security service. CSIS was established and the model is working. Now in a time when we do not have a great crisis we should look at our entire security establishment and establish oversight in the other areas as well.
CSE is an organization shrouded in a great deal of secrecy, rightfully so. However, what is occurring there? There are no indications that there have ever been any civil liberties that have been abused by this particular organization, but we do not know. As members of Parliament we would like to be reassured that no aspect of our security intelligence apparatus in this country is offending any of the civil liberties of Canadians.
SIRC has worked well in terms of the oversight of CSIS. We suggested that it be given additional responsibility and its oversight be extended to CSE. I can understand the argument that SIRC has worked well on a part-time basis. One of the things we were concerned about in our study was that SIRC had not been co-opted by CSIS. We found no indication of that.
One of the reasons we felt that had occurred was because of the part-time nature of its oversight function. If it is felt that this would be too much of a burden for SIRC and would take away from the part-time nature of its job then why not create another body similar to SIRC to oversee CSE. Privy Councillors can do the job in this case also.
My personal preference would be to put that entire oversight function within a parliamentary committee. We have done that to a certain extent with the subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General which we have formed.
May 20, 1992
If we are going to proceed on the basis of the SIRC model, which has worked well, I would urge that we go ahead with a legislative mandate for CSE, set out what it is that it is collecting and in what terms, such as threats to the security of Canada, a similar definition as is put in the CSIS Act that we could compare it against and make sure that is what this particular organization is collecting.
There may be an argument that it cannot get the co-operation of the National Security Agency in the United States. We heard that one from CSIS when SIRC was established. SIRC went to the United States and found that once the initial barriers were broken down, it could co-operate and the Americans were satisfied with the security intelligence agency.
In conclusion, I would support a legislative mandate for CSE. I would like to see SIRC or a SIRC-like body set up in order to protect the civil liberties of Canadians in regard to CSE but not only in CSE, in every aspect of the security apparatus here in Canada.
Topic: PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
Subtopic: SECURITY INTELLIGENCE SERVICE ACT